O’Neill – The Pinnacle Bank O’Neill Irish Seniors returned 7 players from last year’s 21-6 squad for their 2019 campaign.  With the addition of 4 newcomers, the Irish are looking forward to another successful season.  The Seniors team is now represented by players from 5 different high schools in our area.  Coaches are Ryan Berg, Joel Steinhauser, Clint Hilker, and Ken Spader.

The Irish opened as always with the Memorial Day tournament held in O’Neill on Sunday May 26th.  In the first game of the year against Valentine, the Irish struggled defensively in the first inning with some miscues and allowed 4 Badger batters to cross the plate. After the two teams traded single runs in the 3rd, the Irish plated three in the 4th to bring the game within one run. Valentine again scored a single run in the 5th to increase the lead to 6-4.  An Irish rally in the top of the 6th scored one, but it wasn’t enough as Valentine held on to win 6-5.  The Irish were led offensively by Tye Hilker and Grant Stec who each had a hit and 2 RBIs on the day.  Cole Gaughenbaugh added a double, and there were singles from both Blake Krysl and Grady Semin.  On the mound, Blake Krysl took the loss after giving up 2 earned runs in 1 inning of work.  Grant Stec contributed 3 1/3 innings giving up only one hit and striking out five, and Cole Gaughenbaugh finished the last 1 2/3 innings giving up only a single hit and no runs.

In the second game of the day, the Irish faced an always tough PWG squad.  The Irish defense was solid committing no errors in the contest, but the bats fell silent against tough PWG pitching, producing only 3 hits in a 4-1 loss. PWG was able to plate 2 runs in both the 3rd and 5th innings and the Irish lone run came in the bottom of the 4th.  Offensively the Irish were led by Jordan Tasler who had an RBI single along with two hits from catcher Francisco Perez.   Eddie Rodriguez got the start on the mound for the Irish and pitched well giving up 5 hits and 4 runs over 4 innings.  The Irish then went to Tasler, who gave up one hit and struck out two in 2 innings of work.  Francisco Perez pitched a clean final frame.  Overall, it was a much better effort defensively for the Irish but 3 hits weren’t enough to get the job done.

After several postponements earlier in the week, the Irish were finally able to take on rival Creighton on Friday May 31st in O’Neill.  In a rain shortened game, the Irish were able to prevail by a final tally of 7-4.  Things were looking bleak after Creighton jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning on a home run, but in the bottom of the 1st the Irish responded with two runs of their own on a Grant Stec 2 RBI single.  The difference in the game was the bottom of the 2nd as the Irish scored 5 runs on 3 hits and 5 walks from the Creighton hurlers.  The Irish then gave up single runs in the 3rd and 4th, working out of a bases loaded jam in the final inning.  Stec was stellar on the mound as well, giving up 3 hits and striking out 6, while giving up just 2 earned runs in the complete game effort.  The Irish bats finally came alive for some timely hitting from the aforementioned Stec, a single from Eddie Rodriguez, along with Grady Semin and Jacob Long each driving in a run.  Another big factor in the victory was the Irish going 4 for 4 on stolen base attempts with one each from Long, Perez, Rodriguez and Turner Jussel.

On Tuesday night June 4th the Irish travelled to Hartington.  In a wild back and forth contest that ended just before midnight, the Irish prevailed by a score of 15-13.  Hartington jumped to an early 3-1 lead after one inning, but the Irish scored 4 in the 2nd and single runs in the 3rd and 4th to gain an 8-4 advantage.  Hartington plated 4 runs of their own in the 5th to tie the game at 8 apiece.  The teams then traded runs and entering the final inning, the score was knotted at 9.  The Irish exploded for 6 runs and appeared to have the game in hand, but the bats of Hartington were not done.  The hosts pushed across 4 runs and had men at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. A sharp grounder up the middle was fielded by Jordan Tasler on the mound, and the game was finally decided.  On the mound Eddie Rodriguez went 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Cole Gaughenbaugh who provided an inning of relief.  Jordan Tasler was called on in the 5th inning and finished the final 3 frames to earn the win.  As a team the Irish showed great discipline at the plate drawing 17 walks.  Grant Stec came up big at the plate with a double, triple, and 2 walks.  Grady Semin doubled, singled, walked twice and scored 3 runs on the night.

Sunday night June 9th the Irish travelled to Randolph for the first time in many years and were able to come away with an 11-4 victory.  After 4 innings the teams were tied at 4, but a 4 run 5th for the Irish proved to the difference.  In the 7th and final frame, O’Neill was able to add 3 more insurance runs to seal the game.  Jacob Long got his first start of the year on the mound and was solid pitching 3 1/3 innings and giving up 4 runs.  The Irish turned to Jordan Tasler to escape a bases loaded jam in the 4th and he then provided clean innings in the 5th and 6th.  Francisco Perez came on in the 7th and earned the save.  Defensively the Irish had several big plays including a relay from outfielder Tye Hilker to Blake Krysl and finally Eddie Rodriguez providing a big out at 3rd base.  At the plate Grady Semin went 3-4 with two singles, a triple and 3 runs scored.  Grant Stec and Francisco Perez both had a single and double each.  Oscar Lopez provided a spark off the bench in the 7th working a 10 pitch walk.

With the record currently sitting at 3-2 on the year, the upcoming schedule has the team in Ainsworth Wednesday June 12th to take on Valentine, followed by 3 games over the weekend in the Pierce Bracket Busters Tournament, where the Irish will look to come home with a 3rd straight championship.  Next home action will be June 21st and the team would greatly appreciate seeing you all there.

Story by Joel Steinhauser